The Swope Park Rangers (50 points, 8th place) enter the final weekend of the 2018 USL regular season with a playoff berth at stake.
So too do Saint Louis FC (52 points, 7th place) and San Antonio FC (49 points, 9th place) in a wide-open Western Conference playoff race that could see the Rangers finish as high as sixth in the standings, safely in postseason position in seventh or eighth, or below the playoff line altogether in ninth.
The first dominoes will fall on Saturday night when Portland Timbers 2 (52 points, 6th place), Saint Louis FC and San Antonio FC are all in action. Those outcomes will set the stage for a dramatic Western Conference finale as the Rangers host LA Galaxy II at 2 p.m. CT on Sunday at Children’s Mercy Park.
While a San Antonio loss on Saturday would punch SPR’s ticket to the postseason, the Rangers control their destiny and a win on Sunday – regardless of results elsewhere – would send the back-to-back Western Conference champions into the USL Cup Playoffs for a third straight year.
Tickets for Sunday’s showdown are available online at SeatGeek.com for as low as $9 and the first 500 fans in attendance will receive a free SPR Believe t-shirt as part of the team's Fan Appreciation Day festivities.
Swope Park Rangers first-year head coach Paulo Nagamura won MLS Cup and U.S. Open Cup titles with both Sporting KC and the LA Galaxy, and Sunday’s match comes a week after Sporting Kansas City and the LA Galaxy squared off at Children’s Mercy Park. The 1-1 draw featured eight players – four per MLS affiliate – that previously played for the Swope Park Rangers and LA Galaxy II in the USL.
SPR and Los Dos also played to a 1-1 draw on Aug. 1 in the only prior meeting this season. Hadji Barry opened the scoring and Adrian Zendejas saved a penalty with 15 minutes remaining to secure a point on the road and keep SPR unbeaten (4-0-1) all-time against Los Dos.
Barry, a finalist for USL Player of the Month in September after scoring in a USL-record eight straight games, has led the Rangers throughout the team’s playoff push. The 25-year-old has contributed career highs this year with 16 goals – fifth most in the USL and the most in a single season by an SPR player – and five assists in his inaugural season for the Rangers.
Fellow forward Tyler Blackwood has also helped spark the SPR attack as of late with three goals and two assists in the last four games, including the club’s lone goal in a 3-1 loss at Sacramento on Oct. 3. That match, the only game for the Rangers in a 21-day stretch, came three days before LA Galaxy II fell 2-1 to the same Republic side.
Frank Lopez, who scored the equalizer against SPR in August, scored his team-leading 13th goal of the season in the loss last weekend. The 23-year-old rookie is one of three players with 11 or more goals for LA Galaxy II this year along with 16-year-old Efrain Alvarez, who recently returned from leading the Mexico U-17’s to the 2018 Four Nations Tournament title, and 20-year-old captain Ethan Zubak.
Today, Alvarez and Zubak were named the top two players in this year’s USL’s 20 Under 20 rankings, which also featured four Swope Park Rangers players: Wan Kuzain Wan Kamal (No. 3), Felipe Hernandez (No. 5), Gianluca Busio (No. 6), and Jaylin Lindsey (No. 11).
Led by head coach Mike Munoz, LA Galaxy II are eliminated from playoff contention and sit 13th in the table for a second straight year despite earning eight more points than the club’s 2017 campaign. Los Dos, whose roster includes former SPR midfielder Emmanuel Appiah, will be without 21-year-old midfielder Adrian Vera on Sunday due to a one-game suspension for caution accumulation.
Sunday’s match, featuring two teams that have won the last three USL Western Conference Championships, will be streamed live on ESPN+ and in-game updates will also be available via the USLsoccer.com Match Center.
Game 34 of 34
Date: Sunday, October 14, 2018
Kickoff: 2:00 p.m. CT
Location: Children’s Mercy Park (Kansas City, Kansas)
Swope Park Rangers: 14-11-8 (50 points, 8th place in Western Conference)
MLS Affiliate: Sporting Kansas City
LA Galaxy II: 10-16-7 (37 points, 13th place in Western Conference)
MLS Affiliate: LA Galaxy
Game Notes: Click here
Live Stream: ESPN+
Game-specific hashtag: #SPRvLA
Swope Park Rangers
LA Galaxy II